Editor’s note: Oregon’s COVID-19 restrictions have eased, but businesses may ask you to wear a face cover – bring one along and be patient and kind if asked to wear it. It’s also wildfire season – plan ahead and do your part to prevent wildfires.
If you’ve been having a bit of FOMO over springtime images of Oregon’s wildflower fields, forested trails, sparkling rivers and agate-filled beaches, know that with vaccine rates increasing, it will soon be time to make your Oregon travel plans.
National Travel and Tourism Week is May 2-8, 2021, and the theme — appropriately so, after a year of mostly staying at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — is the “power of travel.” Travel is a natural mood-booster that gets us off the couch and into the fresh air — with the nostalgia of a return to your favorite destination or the thrill of exploring a new one. It gives our eyes and brains a much-needed break from our screens. It gives our hearts and souls a chance for some nature-based wellness.
And travel connects us not just to the physical landscapes but to Oregon’s extraordinarily diverse peoples, communities and businesses that rely on visitors to thrive. Travel in Oregon accounts for $14.1 billion in tax receipts, $1.7 billion in employment and more than 100,000 jobs. When we travel, we’re not just bettering ourselves — we’re lifting everyone up.
Oregon’s communities are getting ready to welcome you back safely. Travel Oregon is excited to be part of this effort, through a recent award of $973,336 to 35 Destination Ready projects across the state. From new bike racks to trail signs to spaces for dining in the fresh air, these enhancements will make your experience even more rewarding. Here’s some inspiration for planning and taking your trip safely when you’re ready to travel again.
Explore these iconic sites: Experience the grandeur of the dreamy high desert with a trip to some of the region’s most-visited public lands: the Owyhee Canyonlands and the Steens Mountain Wilderness. Thanks to recent land stewardship and maintenance improvements, these destinations are ripe for a backpacking trip or a multiday adventure in some of the state’s most beautiful backcountry.
Hike through the Blues: You’ll also find enhanced mapping and trail-maintenance operations along the Blue Mountains Trail, a 556-mile thru-hiking experience through northeast Oregon. The trail connects the communities of Joseph, Troy, Tollgate, La Grande, Sumpter, Austin Junction and John Day. Town guides for these communities will be developed soon to help guide hikers to key services and amenities. While you’re out exploring these areas, download a brochure for any of the region’s six self-guided farm tours for food, drink and more outdoor fun: the Whisky & Rocks Farm Loop, the Union County Farm Trail, the Four Rivers Farm & Garden Trail, the Wallowa Barn Tour, the River to Hills Farm Trail and the John Day River Farm Trail.
Stop in John Day: Stop by the new community pit stop in downtown John Day, nearby the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site as well as Fossil Shift, the local bike shop. The pit stop will include food trucks, improved parking and new public restrooms. Wherever you are in Eastern Oregon, friendly local businesses offer endless delights.
Catch your own dinner: Experienced anglers or those looking to try fishing for the first time can visit Marr Pond in Enterprise, which is set to become the only ADA-accessible fishing facility in Wallowa County, thanks to recent improvements. Check MyODFW for fishing permits and other info. The pond is less than a mile west of Terminal Gravity Brewing.
Mt. Hood & Columbia River Gorge
Be a good steward: The Trail Ambassadors program, led by Trailkeepers of Oregon, is continuing to help reduce crowds and promote tips for responsible visiting at many of your favorite trailheads in this region and others across the state. (Or consider volunteering, for a rewarding experience.) Remember to always pack out what you pack in, including pet waste; carry your Ten Essentials and be prepared for the weather; have a backup plan in case your destination is too crowded; and be kind and make sure to wear your face covering. Find more ways to Take Care Out There.
Hike a volcano: Did you know you could start your Mt. Hood hike this summer at the Mt. Hood Meadows parking lot, where parking is a breeze? Explore 8.6 miles of new hiking trails perfect for everyone from families to those who enjoy steep, rugged terrain and views of waterfalls, creeks, wildflowers, Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters. The trails connect the base of the mountain to the already existing trail system, as well as to the popular Umbrella Falls and Sahalie Falls trails. The trails are open for summer hiking between June 25 and Sept. 6, 2021.
Shuttle to waterfalls: The half-day Multnomah Falls and Columbia River Gorge Pink Trolley Sightseeing tour is for visitors looking to tour the waterfall corridor without the hassle of driving or parking. The shuttle requires advance booking, with options to hop on and hop off at designated stops as you roll past landmarks including Beacon Rock, Cape Horn, Rooster Rock and the historic Vista House at Crown Point. In Cascade Locks, there’s improved parking at the Port of Cascade Locks — an excellent base camp for your waterfall-touring adventures. The shuttle follows COVID-19 protocols like enhanced cleaning, reduced seating capacity and required face coverings to keep everyone safe.
Dine outside: When you’re hungry, keep an eye out for new bilingual signs across the region to direct you to participating businesses along the East Gorge Food Trail. There will also be more outdoor dining in the fresh air on Main Street in The Dalles in 2021, thanks to an expansion of The Dalles parklet project.
Shuttle to Mt. Bachelor: Thinking of heading to Mt. Bachelor for spring skiing or hiking? Consider booking a shuttle for a stress-free experience — hopping on for an easy ride to the mountain while enjoying free Wi-Fi and an onboard restroom. The shuttle carries a reduced capacity of 35 passengers and follows other COVID-19 protocols including thorough cleaning and disinfecting, an advanced HVAC air system, and an antimicrobial protectant on all surfaces. Book a reservation for shuttle service from Bend or Sunriver.
Discover the Deschutes and Ochoco forests: If you’re looking to do good while you’re outside, visitors to the Deschutes and Ochoco national forests are invited to deepen their experience by learning about stewardship principles, volunteer opportunities and how to give back to these well-loved forests. Consider signing up for an opportunity with Discover Your Forest, which works to promote stewardship efforts in the region.
Hike to stunning vistas: Just south of Jacksonville, the 5.6-mile East Applegate Ridge Trail is open to hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders year-round, with stunning vista views. The trail now offers a vault toilet and safe-recreation signage to help visitors access the pristine beauty. Several sections of the Taylor Creek Trail, near Grants Pass, are now rehabilitated after being impacted by the 2018 Klondike wildfire. Five new trailhead kiosks greet visitors along the trail.
Take a sip trip: Adventurers to Southern Oregon shouldn’t miss a chance to visit Rogue Valley Wine Country, a collection of 29 wineries with world-class varietals to try and scenic outdoor tasting spaces to enjoy. Sign up for the Rogue Valley e-newsletter for news on the region’s wine club, debuting in summer 2021.
Support McKenzie River communities: If you have treasured memories of the McKenzie River area, consider booking a getaway to support local lodging properties, equipment-rental companies and expert guides who were impacted by the Holiday Farm wildfire in 2020. In fact, there’s a new Cascade Volunteers McKenzie Regenerative Travel Project open to visitors who want to have fun while giving back. Upcoming trips are scheduled for weekends in May, August and September 2021, and include a stewardship project as well as lodging and activities like rafting, mountain biking and visiting hot springs. Here are more ways to show your love to those communities.
Ride the trails: In Coburg, find a new bike hub that includes a fix-it station, lockers, a picnic table, signage and device chargers on the southern anchor of the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway. In Westfir and Oakridge, new bike-hub stations will be ready in June 2021 for mountain-bike enthusiasts who come for some of the best single-track in the state.
Explore the river: One of the easiest ways to keep cool in the warmer months is along the Willamette Water Trail, where new improvements include life jackets, safety kiosks, river guardians, river sanitation support and a new series of discovery paddles for BIPOC community groups led by Willamette Riverkeeper. The organization is bringing canoes, paddles, PFDs and instructors to introduce new paddlers to the river. Anyone interested in participating is invited to email Heather King, deputy director of Willamette Riverkeeper, at [email protected], or reach her at 503-223-6418.
Dine outside: Find more outdoor seating and outdoor dining in the historic downtown Albany as well as in historic downtown Cottage Grove, where visitors can find three new outdoor public parklets. In Corvallis, Albany and surrounding areas, see what’s in season on the Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail. (Hint: It’s strawberries in May and blueberries in June and July). Visit U-pick farms, farm stands, farmers markets and friendly eateries for farm-fresh products.
Pedal through the country and city: Those looking for a peaceful countryside bike ride not far from the city shouldn’t miss the Crown Zellerbach Trail in Columbia County, just north of Portland. Riders will find four bike hubs — with bike racks, benches, repair stations, signage and an informational kiosk — in the communities of Vernonia, Clatskanie and Rainier. Within Portland, spend the day exploring the Green Loop by bicycle or by foot, supporting local businesses along the way.
Dine out in the fresh air: When it comes to outdoor dining in Portland, the city is inviting visitors to enjoy a drink or meal on its 20 new Healthy Business plazas on city sidewalks and streets, part of Oregon’s newest outdoor-dining spaces.
Dip in the water: It’s now even easier to access the water on the North Coast. Bring your kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard to the new ADA-accessible kayak launch in Garibaldi, and find an additional beach wheelchair for use in the Netarts and Oceanside areas. Contact the Tillamook Coast Visitors Association for information on how to rent or reserve the wheelchair. And at William H. Tugman State Park, paddlers will be happy to find a new ADA-accessible kayak launch (opens May 28, 2021) at Eel Lake, in the community of Lakeside.
Take a ride: In Garibaldi you’ll find more seating at the railroad station for the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad, which takes riders on a relaxing 1.5-hour journey to Rockaway Beach. Sunset dinner tours, spring and fall tours and a Candy Cane Express ride are also offered.
Enjoy these coastal boardwalks: In Florence you’ll find more seating areas, trash receptacles and bike racks in Old Town and along the Port of Siuslaw’s boardwalk. In Bandon it’s easy to enjoy your takeout fish ’n’ chips with a view thanks to the addition of a new outdoor seating area along the historic waterfront.
Book a farm stay: If you’re a fan of baby animals, charmingly rustic farmhouses and enjoying farm-fresh meals in the serene countryside, consider these cool places for farm getaways all across Oregon. Search for your destination via the U.S. Farm Stay Association and find nearly a dozen in Oregon — from the remote high-desert Justesen Ranch in Grass Valley, southeast of The Dalles, to Pholia Goat Farm in the Southern Oregon town of Rogue River.